We’re always hearing great feedback from patients about how they benefit from telehealth, but what about the doctors delivering telehealth? How can telehealth help physicians do their work better every day?
Dr. Michael Gray, MD, Staff Physician and a doctor on Amwell, provided his own comprehensive telemedicine review. Here’s a look at why he got into telehealth and the surprises he’s found along the way.
I was originally interested in telehealth for the chance to be part of a cutting-edge technology solution for healthcare delivery, its more flexible work schedule and the convenience of working from home.
I had worked for a few smaller telehealth companies prior to American Well, so I was familiar with the concept of telehealth. I chose to work with American Well because it was rapidly gaining a reputation in the industry for trying to do it “right” and as a doctor, that’s important to me The company has invested heavily in software development and have always been very supportive of their doctors.
I did, however, have a couple of areas of concern, to be transparent. The first concern was the technological aspect. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to properly interview a patient while simultaneously using the webcam and other tools to collect information. Secondly, how was I going to adapt brick and mortar practice guidelines to telemedicine?
Since I was one of the earlier hires, much of the training was one-on-one with a physician coordinator. There were a couple of online modules, but much of it was through interactive sessions online. I also received a background packet on the company, which covered American Well’s structure, leadership and goals.
We were trained on how to report software issues and connection problems, and then conducted many test calls before we were let loose on the public. When I finally got to practice telehealth, I felt well prepared and knew that if an issue came up there were peers and administrative personnel ready and willing to help. This helped immensely in making me feel more comfortable with the technology aspect and enabling me to be prepared to do my job well.
Remote can be personal, and effective
My initial thought was that the webcam discussions would be impersonal, but that turned out to be quite contrary to the truth. You really can make a connection with a patient by video. Expressions and body language give so much more insight than I initially expected.
Having spoken to different doctors, I think some believed that after training you would be just as comfortable seeing patients online as in a brick and mortar setting. While training lays the groundwork and gives you the technical background necessary, adapting brick and mortar treatment paradigms to telemedicine is something that cannot be taught during training. In fact, how to most effectively evaluate and treat online and what the standard of care should be is not even known—It’s something that all of us collectively are determining as time goes on and it’s a constant dialogue.
American Well has always encouraged our efforts to determine what the standard of online care should be for various chief complaints. For example, we were never told that we had to treat sinus infections a certain way, although we collectively devised practice guidelines for common conditions so that newer doctors could be brought up to speed. It also provided a basis upon which to ensure quality.
Treating the nation
Overall, one of the most fascinating aspects of telemedicine is meeting patients from other areas. Even if you have one state license, you will see patients from the far reaches of your state—patients that you never would have met had you practiced in one brick and mortar office. That constant variety adds to the rewarding experience of practicing telemedicine, and is an educational experience that is hard to find elsewhere.
It’s great to hear from the doctors who are practicing telemedicine each day. Look out for future posts sharing the perspective of the digital doctor.